‘They just didn’t want us there’: Black women golfers testify at hearing
Karen Crosby, center, embraces the four other black women golfers along with supporters in prayer, following the end of the second day of the human relations commission hearing June 22, 2018. (Photo: Ty Lohr, York Daily Record)
They just wanted to play golf.
After a soggy, cold spring throughout the region, April 21 was the first day they could play with their new memberships at Grandview Golf Club.
“Any other day but that day, golfing was a joy,” said Karen Crosby, one of the five black women who were told to leave the golf course that afternoon.
She and the four other golfers testified Friday during the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission hearing in York city council chambers.
None of the five women could answer the prevailing question of why police were called twice because they were playing golf too slowly.
That’s especially because they all testified that they weren’t playing too slowly.
“We were playing very fast,” Crosby said. “It was more like a game of field hockey than golf.”
“They just didn’t want us there…” golfer Myneca Ojo said. “Their goal was to get us off the course.”
Another golfer who was behind them, a man who plays at Grandview Golf Club almost daily, on Thursday said there was no problem with the pace of play.
If there wasn’t a problem with the pace of play, then why did former county commissioner Steve Chronister and golf course management on April 21 call police, ask the women to leave and write checks to refund their golf club memberships?
All five women say they faced race and gender discrimination: Ojo, 56; Sandra Thompson, NAACP chapter president in York and former candidate for county judge, 50; sisters Sandra Harrison, 59, and Carolyn Dow, 56; and Crosby, 58.
Whether they are right about that was the subject of a two-day Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission hearing in York city council chambers. The formal decision could take up to 60 days while more information is collected.
“I have my own thoughts but can’t really say anything at this point,” commission Chair Joel Borstein said. “The record is still open. Grandview still has some time to respond.”
Chronister, Grandview owners and their counsel declined the opportunity to testify at the hearing and weren’t present.
The commission and public audience heard the account of what happed at the golf course from the two police officers and golfer who testified Thursday, and all five women on Friday.
In his 19 years as a commissioner, Borstein has “dealt with worse, but never at a golf course.”
“There are things that happen in the commonwealth that just leave you shaking your head that this stuff still happens, but racism and hate is a really tough enemy,” he said. “We have to keep fighting.”
The most emotional testimony Friday came from Sandra Harrison, who said her sense of safety has been taken away.
That’s partially because of what happened at Grandview Golf Club and partially because she lives here.
Sandra Harrison wipes her eyes after testifies during a human relations commission hearing June 22, 2018. (Photo: Ty Lohr, York Daily Record)
“People really don’t understand if you don’t grow up black in America, specifically and especially in York County…” Harrison said through tears, pausing to keep her composure.
Harrison, one of five black women asked to leave the Dover Township golf course two months ago, said she’s had to seek help because the incident on that April day “really has taken a toll.”
She hasn’t golfed at Grandview since April 21. She hasn’t golfed anywhere since that day. Ojo, on the other hand, last week golfed for the first time since that April day at Grandview. During the golf outing a week ago, she won a prize for the longest ball at Heritage Hills. Crosby golfed at that same event.
“Evil is so thick in this county, I’m afraid to go,” Harrison said. “I’m not sure who is connected with who.”
The current political climate is a renewed license for people to express their demons, she said.
Her hands were shaking that day at Grandview. When police were called, she feared the day “could be really ugly.” She thought of Trayvon Martin and others. She compared her fear to 9/11 and the confusion and worry that followed, when people didn’t know what would happen next.
The incident that day has significantly affected the golf group and the women’s relationships with each other.
“It’s infested our lives,” Harrison said.
People have told her they were asked to leave and they just should’ve left. It’s also been suggested the women are seeking money or prestige.
“No. This has affected my life,” Harrison said.
She has relied on family, friends and her faith in God, she said.
“I see now God allows things to happen for other reasons…” Harrison said again through tears and pauses. “I have to stand up. I have grandchildren who have to live in York and I’m sick and tired…and that recent incident with the little boy (shot and killed by police in Pittsburgh) he looks just like my grandson.”
Though her testimony was the most emotional, all five women testified that they were shocked by what happened on April 21.
“You need to pick up the pace” was the first thing Ojo said she heard from Chronister, who allegedly identified himself as the owner of Grandview Golf Club.
Chronister is not listed as an owner on any public records. His daughter-in-law, J.J., in April said Chronister worked at Grandview in an advisory role. It’s a family business among Chronister’s son, Jordan, and his brother-in-law, York County Controller Greg Bower, and others.
Crosby and Ojo, who along with the other three women are all members of Sisters in the Fairway, were at the top of the second hole and said they were taken aback by Chronister’s actions.
Ojo had never been approached like that on the course and never saw someone walking so quickly across a golf course without a club in his or her hands. The only thing in Chronister’s hands was a yellowish drink, Ojo testified.
The two women told Chronister they were not going slow, Ojo testified Friday morning, and he again repeated that they needed to pick up the pace as he walked off.
Though the women were confused, they said their first obligation was to comply. Out of courtesy, she and Crosby started playing Ready Golf, a faster version of the game.
Chronister’s demeanor was combative as he approached golfer Sandra Thompson, NAACP chapter president in York and a former candidate for county judge, Ojo and Crosby said. He was waving his hands and arms, they said.
Crosby was completely taken by surprise, hearing Chronister’s words and seeing his “stomping gait.”
“I thought he was going to tell us to have a good round,” she said.
Instead, he told them to play faster.
Until that April day, Crosby had an affinity to Grandview because she grew up across from the golf course and knew it as one of the first places during segregation to allow black men to golf there.
Even that day before they were confronted, the holes were going very well, Thompson said.
“Do you see what you’re doing?” she said to Chronister.
Thompson said she never called Chronister a racist, but she pointed out he was treating black women differently than white men.
Her group of five wasn’t the cause of a delay that morning, she said she told him. There was a frost delay and a golf scramble that pushed back their tee times.
Chronister kept offering to refund their money as she explained, Thompson said in testimony.
“He never said get off our property at that time. He just kept saying he wanted to refund our memberships,” she said.
It wasn’t until after hole 9 they were told to leave.
Jordan Chronister, son of the former county commissioner, can be seen on video telling Ojo and Thompson to leave.
“We’ve asked you three times to remove yourself from the premises,” he said.
Thompson said she was “extremely confused” and “really shocked.”
“I just could not understand,” she said. “I’m bewildered by the whole scenario.”
She’s still struggling with the fallout of that day, having been the most public face of the five women who had a negative experience at Grandview.
“It’s a constant attack since this all has occurred…” Thompson said. “It needed to be exposed and disclosed…”
But ongoing media coverage has created renewed attacks, with readers, online commenters and others claiming the women just want attention.
Thompson feels the expectation is she should just say, “Yes, sir, yes, ma’am” and walk on.
“You are constantly reminded you should stay in your second-class position,” she said.
This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record.